Don’t Be a Creep

Advertising on Facebook and Instagram without looking like a psycho stalker

No one wants to be the creepy stalker of Facebook and Instagram advertising.

We’ve all been on the receiving end of those annoying or flat-out eerie ads. That pair of shoes you decided not to buy that shows up continuously for weeks, even though you abandoned your cart on purpose…

That clothing company that fills every ad slot on your Instagram scroll…

That one influencer selling their membership platform in endless video ads even though you’ve never heard of them before…

And that time you were talking with your partner about a restaurant in your hometown and all the sudden their food delivery popped up for you on Facebook…

The folks I work with — purpose-driven, thoughtful and creative entrepreneurs — are leery of this kind of follow-you-around marketing and only want to advertise responsibly.*

That’s why, this spooky season, I want to share with you four ways you can AVOID BEING A CREEPY STALKER IN AD CAMPAIGNS.

Aim for High Relevance

  • Your ads should be highly relevant to those who see them. That’s just good marketing. And it’s also far less creepy. You can assure relevance in multiple ways: Match new content that you want to promote with segments of your audience based on interest, by how they know you, or by how they’ve engaged with your ads or content in the past.
  • Make sure your content makes sense by only using images and videos that correspond to your copywriting on your ad. Make sure your call to action is clear and a user won’t be surprised by clicking through to something unrelated.
  • Think about how you can meet your ideal audience where they are. Are you asking a stranger to sign up for something too soon? Are you sending introductory ads to people who have been on your email list for months already? Make ads that make sense to the viewer in the scheme of their relationship to you and your business.

Pro Tip: Are you a data person? Check in on relevance by looking at the “Quality Ranking” for your individual ads on Facebook and Instagram.

Kill Any Ads with Low Engagement

Ads that aren’t attracting any likes, comments, click-throughs or views are not working for you. You might try to tweak them first, by swapping out an image or redefining the intended audience. But if it’s still not working, it’s OK to let it go! Try another direction. Don’t keep running something that no one wants to see.

Keep an Eye on Frequency

Back when all we had available was TV, radio and print, advertisers knew that a consumer had to see something 7 times before they felt ready to buy. Repetition has grown ever more important in digital marketing, as folks have worse and worse attention spans and there is much more competition and many more distractions that prevent your message from sinking in. I read somewhere that it might require 30 or so touchpoints before someone trusts you enough to buy nowadays. So you might think: I’ll just run my ad forever so my audience sees it 30 times!

Please don’t. Seeing the exact same ad over and over feels like spam and gets creepy fast.

We have our jobs cut out for us as online marketers, because we need to share fresh content with our ideal audience. Consistent in tone and objective but creative in form. I don’t like my ads to be seen more than 3x on average per person. I’ll turn it off when it hits that point. And replace it with something similar, but new.

Watch this quick tutorial on how to review Frequency when running Facebook and Instagram ads through Facebook Ads Manager:

Trim the duration of your remarketing ads

Finally, here’s an easy one: Turn off any remarketing ads after a reasonable amount of time! If you’re trying to sell those shoes someone left in their cart, but they’re still not coming back after a week, you can probably let them go. If you’re running a thank you ad to those who attended a virtual conference or workshop, you don’t have to run it for more than a few days after the event. Think about how quickly your ideal client will have moved on and time your ad accordingly.

That’s it. Four ways not to be a creep in Facebook and Instagram advertising.

By keeping track of who you’re targeting and what they need, you can ensure that their experience doesn’t scare them away! In fact, it will show them that you’re aware of what the next step is in their journey with you, and will lead to clicks more organically.

*Before you ask: No, I haven’t watched The Social Dilemma.

Why? I live that dilemma everyday. I’ve been researching this stuff for years in my line of work. I know how addictive these platforms are and how bad they can make us feel about ourselves. I have been aiming to advise clients to use digital marketing and advertising as responsibly as possible for as long as I’ve been in business, whether that means questioning parameters for their target audience to avoid discriminatory placement, deciding whether or not to join Facebook boycotts, or designing segmented campaigns that offer greater relevance to smaller groups of individuals.

My work in this area is not perfect. We make compromises and we fail sometimes. But if we work together, I will always tell you it’s important to consider these issues and ground your approach in your values when you are deploying a targeted, paid campaign. We can all start by actively trying to be less creepy.

Have you found your Forever Fans?

If you don’t know who your ideal client, customer or audience member is, chances are you’re wasting every minute you spend on social media, emails and more.

That’s why we created a worksheet to help you better understand and locate your ideal audience for every service or product or event you have. Totally free to use again and again!

Amy Jacobus is an online marketing strategist who still sends handwritten thank yous. She’s obsessed with helping service providers, entrepreneurs and mission-based business owners increase their impact with smart, human marketing online. Amy teaches workshops and leads programs full of simple, apply-it-now strategies for your website, email and social media, including her signature program, Confident + Consistent Marketing. She has designed courses, facilitated workshops and participated in panel discussions for University of Denver, LEAP at St. Mary’s College, Barnard College, New York Foundation for the Arts, Gibney Dance, The Artist Co-op and Pentacle, among others. Learn more about Amy and her work at and follow her at @amyjacobus on Instagram.

This article was originally published on her blog, where she shares weekly marketing advice for creatives and entrepreneurs.

Marketing Strategist, Teacher and Speaker. Helping creative entrepreneurs avoid marketing stress and make a bigger impact since 2011.